Dunster is a village of just over 800 people lying on the north-eastern edge of Exmoor National Park, close to the Bristol Channel. Its main attraction is the castle which has been here for a thousand years, and for 600 of those, it belonged to the Luttrell family who gave it to the National Trust in 1976.
Naturally, many of the visitors come to see the castle, and I intend to write a separate post about it later; but for now, I just want to write a short introduction to the village, which is worth a visit in itself.
There’s no denying that Dunster attracts tourists, and the High Street, which is the main thoroughfare through the village, is also the main road between Dunster and Tiverton, and like roads everywhere these days, seems to be busier than it used to be, but don’t let all this put you off because there are any number of quieter corners of the village, and the beautiful Exmoor countryside is only a short distance away: It goes without saying, that if you can choose a quieter time to come, then the experience will be all the better for it.
Anybody who reads my blogs will know that I like to delve into the past, but I’m not going to do that here, because Dunster is just a nice village to wander around without having to think too much.
The only thing of consequence in Dunster’s history (apart from the castle) is the fact that it was an important cloth centre which reached its peak in the 16th century, and the only reason I’m even bothering to mention this, is because at the opposite end of the High Street to the castle is a most impressive Yarn Market which dates from 1609.
Walking down through the High Street, you’ll find some interesting shops which even I don’t mind looking at. My blogging friend, Alli Templeton (whose excellent web page called Medieval Wanderings can be found here) will no doubt like the Medieval Gallery, but my particular favourite is the art gallery run by Maurice Bishop in Castle Hill. It’s one of those places that I could spend all afternoon wanting to buy everything, and come out with nothing (sometimes).
Instead of walking up to the castle, bear right into Church Street, which is named after the priory Church of St. George, where you can wander through to the lovely Memorial Garden and the nearby Dovecote and Tithe Barn (not open to the public).
Church Street leads into West Street and if you keep going down to Park Street on the left-hand side it will take you to Gallox Bridge, a packhorse bridge of which there are several in this part of the county.
We’ll need to re-trace our steps back towards the village, but if you take the next turning right into Mill Lane, it will lead to a working water mill (owned by the National Trust), and a great place to stop for a cream tea at the Water Mill Tea Gardens.
I haven’t covered every nook and cranny in Dunster, but as you can see, it isn’t very big, but big enough to spend a good couple of hours in before you visit the castle, but I suggest you leave visiting Maurice Bishop’s gallery until after you visit the castle, otherwise you might not end up visiting the castle at all.